Regrets? I’ve had my share(s)

Irish Life Share Price – Pocket History:

 Launch – July 1991 IR £1.60 (€2.03)     

Peak –  March 2007                   €22.80

Today – Sept 2011                     €00.03

And there, in a nutshell, lies my sorry investment story .

  I worked for Irish Life for 17 years. When the company was first floated, staff got some free shares. There was also an option to buy more at a discounted price. Everyone eagerly ticked the boxes.

  Over the years, share opportunities came thick and fast. Career progression equalled share accumulation and I had my hand out. Salary sacrifice scheme? Yes please. Dividends paid as shares instead of cash? Where do I sign. Performance bonus paid in shares? I’ll have some of that, thanks very much.

  And on and on it went. I – and many colleagues – amassed shares like Smarties. Some people cashed in when looking for a deposit to buy a house. Others used some when getting married. I’m sure more also splashed them on a new car, major holiday or whatever.

  I never cashed any. Not a single one. I had no concrete plan for them, other than a far off rainy day/retirement type notion. By the time I left I in 2003 I had nearly 3,000 shares.

  The funny thing is I’d never considered myself a ‘shares person’ or risk taker with money (a previous blogpost attests to this). I think I saw them as ‘employee benefits’ which somehow made them different. As if…

  When I left the company in March 2003 the share price was €8.95. Four years later they were stretching towards €23.00. I thought I was on the pig’s back. Instead – as we know now – they had hit a lifetime peak, and the only way was down…

  They only time I actively considered selling was after watching a particular Ivan Yates interview. It was August 2008 – share price now €6 – and he was painting a ‘we’re all doomed’ quite scary scenario. I gathered up as many share certs as I could find and looked up the Golden Pages. I headed off to my nearest stockbrokers.

 The thoroughly nice chap I met told me it was my decision – no surprises there – but that he wouldn’t dream of selling such a blue chip share at that price. He said it would possibly get worse before better, but he would hang on in there. I left. Shares still under my arm.

 And so here I am in 2011. Shares still under my arm. I can only describe my attitude to them in the last 3 years as being like a rabbit caught in the headlights. As they continued their inexorable slide, I continued my inexorable inability to move.

 Losing money on shares is nothing new. My experience has been replicated 1000s of times over in recent times. I gambled, I lost. Looking back on it now I wonder was I ever actually going to feel ready/able to sell. Like I said maybe I’m just not a shares person. Or maybe I was just too greedy.

  Do I regret buying them? No.

Do I regret not selling them? No need to answer that.

 But, in truth, my biggest regret is actually not selling ANY. Not one single element of return, big or small, prudent or otherwise.

 It’s like the time I was on Who Wants to be a Millionaire (another blogpost perhaps?). Of course winning a pile of dough would have been great, but my major feeling afterwards was huge regret at having got SO close and not made it (past Fastest Finger First). So close I could smell Gaybo’s aftershave, could see the colours on his cravat. But no cigar…

 Of course one has to see the silver lining in every cloud;

 – I got some tax breaks (which I probably didn’t notice/appreciate at the time )

 – I can sit through the News now without grimacing every time the ISEQ is mentioned.

 – I wont be paying any Capital Gains Tax

 – I remain a shareholder! I can still daydream about what to buy with €90. Any ideas? Answers on a share certificate please…